Cleary Gottlieb Adds Hong Kong Law as IPOs Hit Record

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, which advised United Co. Rusal on its $2.24 billion Hong Kong initial share sale this year, hired Norton Rose’s Freeman Chan to start a local law practice in the Chinese city.

The New York-based law firm has other global clients planning IPOs of a similar magnitude and will be able to advise them on Hong Kong law from Feb. 1, according to Hong Kong-based partner Clay Johnson. The capability will also allow Cleary Gottlieb to better serve private equity clients doing deals with Hong Kong-listed Chinese companies, he said today.

Wall Street law firms Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP have hired new partners to expand their Hong Kong offices in the past year as they bet that the special administrative region of China is the key to fees from the world’s fastest-growing major economy. A record $44 billion has been raised by 74 companies in initial share sales in the city this year.

“Adding Hong Kong law capability to our existing, successful Asia practice is a natural and important extension of our firm’s global business model,” Cleary Gottlieb Managing Partner Mark Walker said in a statement.

The firm has more than 40 lawyers in Hong Kong and Beijing, including 17 Hong Kong-qualified lawyers.

Chan, 48, is a member of the takeovers and mergers panel of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission, and has advised companies including China Modern Dairy Holdings Ltd. and Springland International Holdings Ltd. on their IPOs in the city, according to the statement.

David Stannard, Asia head of London-based Norton Rose, said the law firm wishes Chan all the best. It has doubled its lawyers in Hong Kong in the last 15 months to 90, he said.

Cleary Gottlieb, which opened in Hong Kong in 1980, plans to hire about six more lawyers for Hong Kong and Beijing, Johnson said.

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